A FRESH BREATH: EXAMINING THE EXPERIENCE OF STRANGULATION AMONG WOMEN ABUSED BY AN INTIMATE PARTNER – THE CANADIAN CONTENT (SESSION G)
Strangulation has been identified as one of the highest risk factors / behaviours for physical harm and death, as the abuser literally holds his victim’s life between his hands (Glass et al., 2007). Despite the seriousness and pervasiveness of strangulation, there has been relatively little attention paid to this issue. Service providers generally don’t ask women experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) about strangulation (Funk, Schuppel, 2003). This may be, in part, due to an absence of obvious physical marks in many cases of strangulation (Funk, Schuppel, 2003) as well as a lack of training around how to talk to women about strangulation.
In addition, for many reasons, including fear and trauma, victims may minimize or not disclose having been strangled. It is important, therefore, to identify ways to make it easier for women to be able to talk about strangulation with support services, so that they can receive proper treatment and follow-up care, as well as information on the potential lethal impact of strangulation.
Just as with IPV in general, women who have experienced non-fatal strangulation maintain the secrecy of the violence, unaware of the serious health consequences they may be suffering as a result. We wanted to explore the prevalence and impact – both physically and emotionally of strangulation among women in Canada abused by an intimate partner. We also wanted to understand how the women interpreted the violence, with a goal to raise awareness among professionals working with survivors, as well as women experiencing IPV, of the potential lethality.
Method: We conducted 13 in-person and two phone interviews with women who identified as survivors of IPV-related strangulation.
Results: 15 women participated in this first Canadian study, ranging in age from 30 to 60 years, from relatively diverse educational, economic and cultural backgrounds. The data tracked the number of times participants experienced being strangled, how many reported to a healthcare professional, law enforcement or family member / friend. We were also able to document the most common emotional and physical impacts, as well as the number of women who were strangled in front of their children or pets.
Discussion: The information gleaned from the participants shows the need for the development of a comprehensive awareness programme, training tools and better supports for service providers, to better identify and support women who have experienced non-fatal strangulation in the context of IPV.
The presentation will highlight study results, particularly as it pertains to the role healthcare, law enforcement, VAW service providers and related professionals can play.
Despite the number of women injured every day, many service providers are either unaware of the prevalence, or unclear how to best help women who have experienced strangulation in this context. The gaps in knowledge, understanding, failure to ask and lack of resources leaves women living with the aftermath of being strangled with very little supports in their communities. The purpose of this presentation is to showcase our ‘4 C’s of Strangulation’, an approach to facilitating strangulation-sensitive IPV service provision from a direct practice perspective.